Dogs come inherently outfitted with the ears they need for their specific breed. Floppy ears keep out insects, water, and dirt.
But some people have determined that they want to change the look of their dog’s ears and decide to have them cropped.
Don’t be duped. The cropping of ears was not so the dog could hear more acutely. Ear cropping was done to make the dog look more intimidating. What looks more threatening, a Doberman with floppy ears or a Doberman with sharp, upright ears?
In the real world, sometimes a puppy or dog suffers an injury to their ears, which may require cosmetic surgery to prevent infection or close an open severe tear or wound. For that, the procedure is understandable.
However, many countries worldwide, considered by us to be “less educated and enlightened,” have recognized there is unquestionably no medical or health reason for a puppy or dog to undergo ear cropping. They have banned it, and the procedure is deemed illegal, with considerable fines. They also disqualify any dog who has experienced otoplasty from authorized competitions.
Ear cropping, or cosmetic otoplasty, is purely for a perceived image. The practice is cruel, mutilating, and painful.
If you don’t think so, cut off part of your ear!
In the United States, currently, nine states regulate the ear cropping of dogs. Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania prohibit ear cropping except by a licensed veterinarian while the dog is under an anesthetic. Maryland law also stipulates that ear cropping must be “appropriate on the animal.” Illinois prohibits animal torture but makes an exception for the alteration of an animal under a licensed veterinarian’s direction.
Maine prohibits mutilating an animal by irreparably damaging body parts but makes an exception for conduct performed by a licensed veterinarian. Massachusetts prohibits ear cropping except when executed by a licensed veterinarian, and Washington prohibits ear cropping except when it is considered a customary husbandry practice.
In Canada, several provinces, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba, have also made the practice illegal, with others expected to follow suit.
Breeds traditionally recognized for ear cropping
Breeds with ears that are by tradition cropped include Affenpinscher, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Bouvier des Flandres, Boxer, Briard, Brussels Griffon, Doberman Pinscher, German Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Schnauzer, Neapolitan Mastiff, and Standard Schnauzer.
Ear cropping process
If you honestly believe the procedure is painless, stop and think of the last time YOU had any surgery you had control over. What was the one thing you feared most? What was the first thing you demanded when it was over? And why?
Remember, this is not a life-or-death necessary procedure. Ear cropping is done only for cosmetic reasons so your dog will have a certain “look.”
Now, imagine being a puppy between the ages of 7 to 14 weeks old. Hopefully, you have received a complete physical examination, including a clotting time test. You are then given a tranquilizer and put under general anesthesia, which is risky for a dog of any age, particularly a puppy. The first risk is the stress of being put under anesthesia, which can suppress your immune system, placing you at risk for infection.
Your ears are then cleaned and disinfected. Next, someone, most often but not always, a veterinarian, starts cutting away, starting at the base of your ear and working their way to the tip. Generally, depending upon your breed, leaving 3/4 to 2/3 of your ear. Then, when they cut off one, they do the other.
Now you have two open wounds that must be stitched, stapled, or surgically adhered to from the bottom up. How are you feeling? Having fun yet?
Wait! You’re not finished. After the ear cropping surgery, you have to wait until the wounds heal, approximately 10-14 days.
The next event you have to look forward to is having the stitches or staples removed. By now, you are probably on antibiotics.
Shaping and taping
With that done, you move to the shaping and taping. Human tongue depressors often support your ears, although some veterinarians use tampons or pipe insulation. Your ears are shaped and taped, sometimes for as long as four to six months, so the muscles and cartilage of your ears are “trained” to stand up on their own. Normally, the longer the ear, the longer the healing, taping, and “training” time.
You may stay at the vet overnight, or you may get to go home that same day. Either way, you’re going with an E-collar wrapped around your head. No question you’ll bump into everything in your way. Don’t think that contraption doesn’t hurt your ears or cut into your neck! Your person or vet may use a more humane cushioned collar if you’re lucky.
Wait, you’re not done! For the next few months, you must have the old support removed and your ears cleaned, repacked, and retaped at least every week to 10 days. That means you have to be careful when you’re playing, but you probably will be because your ears are so sore if anything touches them, it hurts!
Hopefully, your ears won’t get infected because you cannot go without the taped support for more than a day. If they do get infected, you’ll know from the smell. Now you have a serious setback.
Hopefully, your person will diligently keep your ears cleaned and supported. If they can’t be bothered doing it, you better hope they take you to the vet or other professional to have it done. That’s about $20 a pop!
For some reason, as is often the case with Great Danes, because their ears are exceptionally long if the first time doesn’t work, your owner may insist that the procedure is repeated, but now, there is less ear to work with!
Things to consider
Some will argue a puppy does not feel pain because the nerve endings are not yet defined. That is not true! Because those nerve endings have been cut and are raw, your puppy will feel waves of pain.
If the tape work is not done properly, the loss of circulation to the ears can occur, causing gangrene, or unsightly fold may become permanent.
Some dogs suffer serious behavioral problems caused by the trauma of ear cropping. It could alter their temperament. They can become head shy and even snappy when anything is done around their head or ears.
Dogs communicate using their ears. You have eliminated one of the most valuable and effective ways your dog can communicate with other dogs.
How much does it cost?
The cost varies depending upon whether you use a veterinarian or breeder, or your neighbor or Uncle Joe says they can do it for nothing! Many offer a service that is unlicensed and illegal. They usually charge $100. Some breeders consider themselves “experts” who normally charge $100-$200—veterinarian fees for the surgery range from $300 to $500.
There is also typically a fee of at least $20 each time your puppy is brought in to have their ears retaped since that can take 4 to 6 months, tack on another $320 to $480 if you aren’t the do-it-yourself type.
Many veterinarians in the U.S. are now voluntarily refusing to perform cosmetic ear cropping.
They will do it only if there is an injury, health, or medical reason for the procedure. That progressive change in thinking will make many happier and pain-free puppies in the USA.
Karen A. Soukiasian owns Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.